American lawmakers of all political stripes are lining up to fight Attorney General Jeff Sessions' crackdown on marijuana. But Sessions' biggest opponent of all is reality itself, which has become a familiar foe for the Trump administration.
A federal crackdown has been looming ever since Sessions -- a former Alabama Senator who gained notoriety for his outdated and irrational views on cannabis -- became attorney general last February. Sessions is the 'Reefer Madness' throwback who has said stuff like "Good people don't smoke marijuana" and that he thought the Ku Klux Klan "were OK until I found out they smoked pot." This guy probably goes to sleep by counting DEA helicopters instead of sheep. Now he's on the verge of becoming a nightmare for the legal states, and there isn't much they can do to stop him.
Even though 8 states have legalized recreational cannabis use and another 22 have approved medical marijuana, all uses of cannabis are still prohibited by the federal government. So Sessions has the legal authority to pursue a crackdown, which he says is necessary to combat violent crime in America.
But if he takes that step, he'll have to fight federal lawmakers from his own ranks. “I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state [marijuana] policy,” warned Sen. Paul last week, when The Hill reported that Sessions was moving toward a full-scale crackdown.
And Paul's not the only one getting ready to scrap over cannabis. Senator Cory Booker (D) has also spoken out, arguing that Sessions' crackdown would fuel rather than reduce violent crime in America. “If you try to start prosecuting marijuana...you create more violence and more danger as well as greater government cost,” Sen. Booker told The Hill earlier this month. “These policies that he’s doing ultimately go to the core of the safety of our communities.”
Booker may have been referring to a new study suggesting that marijuana dispensaries actually reduce crime rates, which rise when pot shops are shuttered.
These Senators Will Fight Sessions On Cannabis
Booker and Paul are among a growing group of senators who want to let states decide their own cannabis laws. That's why they're backing the CARERS Act of 2017 -- a Senate bill that would protect medical marijuana businesses and patients from federal prosecution by forcing Sessions and the DEA to respect state cannabis laws. The bill was introduced earlier this year in response to Sessions' threats of a crackdown, so if the attorney general unleashes the DEA on legal states, he'll draw fire from the bill's sponsors -- which include Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Al Franken (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) as well as Paul and Booker.
Sessions will also face resistance from Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, who condemned the attorney general's proposed crackdown on Twitter yesterday, calling the policy "backward," "inhumane" and a threat to the progress that legal states have made in terms of cleaning up the American justice system.
Sessions' War on Reality
But Sessions' biggest opponent is reality itself, which contradicts the rhetoric of his drug war. The attorney general has repeatedly tried to justify his backward stance on cannabis by linking marijuana to organized crime. "Experts are telling me there's more violence around marijuana than one would think," Sessions told reporters last February. "You can't sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that."
There's only one problem with that argument position: people aren't getting gunned down all the time over marijuana -- not in legal states or elsewhere in the country -- because gangs have moved on to harder substances.
“From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America,” Ronal Serpas -- former Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department and co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration -- told The Hill. “That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America. Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.”
And those drugs are also killing heir users in records numbers. In 2016, an estimated 59,000-65,000 Americans died due to overdoses of substances like heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. But nobody has ever died of a cannabis overdose -- even the DEA admits that. So Sessions' crackdown probably won't do anything but waste more time, money and lives on fighting the wrong drug war.